Why the cloud is putting data centres in their place

The cloud’s on a race to zero. With the cost of data storage plummeting and hot competition between big name providers, prices are being cut to the bone to attract new customers. Major players are also aggressively improving reach and quality of service by rolling out new regional data centres around the globe.

There’s a lucrative prize at stake: the public cloud market is expanding by almost 20% year-on-year, six times faster than the IT space as a whole. By 2019, the market will be worth a staggering $141 billion. To dominate this opportunity, Amazon Web Services has slashed prices more than 45 times in the past seven years, with other major platforms like IBM SoftLayer and Microsoft Azure following suit.

To support this ultra-competitive pricing, it’s crucial the data centres underpinning today’s cloud platforms are as cost-effective as possible. In a world where power is pricy, that means going green.

With a serious competitive advantage now resting on factors like low power consumption, passive cooling and rock-solid reliability, data centres are popping up in the strangest places in search of efficiencies.

Keep your cool
Cooling has long been one of the data centre industry’s most expensive problems, but today cloud providers are hoping new locations hold the solution.

In search of cooler climes, cloud providers have turned their eye to the Arctic Circle. Google recently invested $1 billion in a new Finnish data centre to support users across Europe. The Hamina facility harnesses seawater from the Bay of Finland and Swedish wind power as part of its high-tech cooling system. With the facility almost entirely powered by renewable energy and largely cooled by the chilly ambient environment, Google’s Finnish data centre is one of the most cost-effective in the world.

Other cloud players are going even further afield in search of savings. Microsoft is now experimenting with a new generation of containerised data centres that can function hundreds of feet underwater.

With unlimited cold water surrounding them, these data centres can be kept cool for free. By negating the need for air conditioning these facilities can slash power consumption dramatically, but underwater data centres can also be paired with tidal generators to reduce energy overheads almost to zero.

Deeper underground
Of course, energy efficiency and cost reduction aren’t the only factors influencing where cloud providers locate their data centres. As customers become ever more dependent on the cloud to support day-to-day operations, downtime is something no provider can afford.

To safeguard security and reliability, data centres are now being built deep underground. From former nuclear bunkers to abandoned mines, providers are actively looking for ways to ensure their facilities are impervious to even the worst man-made or natural disasters.

IBM is currently collaborating on the Lefdal Mine Data Centre – a Tier III underground facility deep inside a Norwegian mountain. Built across six levels, the facility guarantees unbeatable physical security while also being able to benefit from the region’s plentiful hydroelectric power.

The search continues
While the bottom-line is a high priority, cloud providers know that power consumption is more than just a major cost contributor. With data centres now generating more carbon emissions than airlines, going green is becoming increasingly important to brand reputation and new government regulations on emissions are an ever-present possibility. Meanwhile, customers are also becoming increasingly concerned by quality of service, security and data sovereignty when it comes to the providers they trust.

Given these powerful trends, it’s clear the drive towards new data centre locations has only just begun. From Antarctica to orbiting the Earth, our data may soon be going further than ever before in the search for competitive advantage.

To learn more about the future of cloud services and how they’re influencing the next generation of data centres, register for Datacloud Europe 2016. During the in-depth two day conference you’ll hear from 180 expert speakers presenting unmissable keynotes, panel sessions and discussion groups on what lies ahead for the digital economy.